Monday, April 12, 2010

I've been wrong about water

In all my discussions — both in this blog and the Second Thoughts column — it occured to me that I might have made a mistake.

I've said all along that California is in a water crisis, that there's simply not enough water in the state to go around. I realize that I've been wrong.

California — at least Northern California — is the definition of a water-rich area. That's why San Joaquin County farmland is so fertile, why the fishery in and outside San Francisco Bay used to be one of the best, why it was so easy for people to settle down here in the first place.

Compared to many places around the globe, our corner of California is a virtual water world.

So, how are we in a drought? How can the Delta, fed by the state's mightiest rivers, dying?

It's a testament to how we've decided to use — or misuse — nature's bounty that we're talking about droughts in Northern California and the collapse of an entire ecosystem.

Simply put, we've found a way to use almost all nature's provided. Between massive farming operations in a semi-desert and locating millions of people on chaparral land in the arid south, we've overdrawn our water account.

California is the star athlete who earned record cake yet somehow managed to burn through his cash within three years of retirement. Yes, we're that guy.

Only tough decisions — decisions that could uproot thousands of workers and fallow thousands of acres of farmland — will put us on the road to sustainability.

It won't be popular or especially kind to those affected. But our water account's overdrawn. And the bills will soon be due.

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